PhD Student in Educational Leadership
Prairie View A&M University
College of Education
William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
PhD Program in Educational Leadership
Prairie View A&M University
Member of the Texas A&M University System
Visiting Lecturer (2005)
Oxford Round Table
University of Oxford, Oxford, England
Distinguished Alumnus (2004)
Central Washington University
College of Education and Professional Studies
The purpose of this article is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of
computer technology for second language learning. Research findings indicate that
the use of computer has a positive effect on the achievement levels of second
language learners, but it still has its limitations and weaknesses, such as financial,
isolated, and knowledge required issues. The authors emphasize that we must
recognize both the advantages and disadvantages of using computers so we can get
the maximum effectiveness of technology to enhance second language learning.
inspired by the rapid development of technology from the 1980s, computer has now
become an influential component of second language learning pedagogy. Educators
recognize that utilizing computer technology and its attached language learning
programs can be convenient to create both independent and collaborative learning
environments and provide students with language experiences as they move through the
various stages of second language acquisition (Kung, 2002).
The purpose of this article is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of computer technology applied in current second Language instruction. In second language
acquisition domain, Perrett (1995) has mentioned that if students are provided with the
opportunities to use language and learning strategies in the second language, and some
training or explanation in their application, they can develop these strategies through
exposure to and experience in the second language.” Therefore, explaining the
advantages and disadvantages of computer technology to teachers and students seems to
be necessary. Only after guiding, do teachers and students realize the benefits of
computer technology for second language acquisition, then they can apply computer
appropriately and join those computer assisted language learning programs by their own wills.
Advantages of CALL Programs
Educators (Jonassen, 1996; Salaberry, 1999; Rost, 2002) indicate that the current
computer technology has many advantages for second language learning. Computer and
its attached language learning programs could provide second language learners more
independence from classrooms and allowing learners the option to work on their learning
material at any time of the day. Once implemented, it can be expected that the cost for
computer technology is considerably lower than for face-to-face classroom teaching, and
when used in conjunction with traditional second language classroom study, students can
study more independently, leaving the teacher more time to concentrate effort on those
parts of second language teaching that are still hard or impossible by the computer, such
as pronunciation, work on spoken dialogue, training for essay writing and presentation
Lee (2000) further stated that the reasons why we should apply computer
technology in second language instruction, include computer and its attached language
learning programs can (a) prove practices for students through the experiential learning,
(b) offer students more the learning motivation, (c) enhance student achievement, (d)
increase authentic materials for study, (e) encourage greater interaction between teachers
and students and students and peers, (f) emphasize the individual needs, (g) regard
independence from a single source of information, and (h) enlarge global understanding.
Taylor (1980) also expressed that computer assisted language learning programs can be
wonderful stimuli for second language learning. Currently, computer technology can
provide a lot of fun games and communicative activities, reduce the learning stresses and
anxieties, and provide repeated lessons as often as necessary. Those abilities will promote
second language learners’ learning motivation. Through various communicative and
interactive activities, computer technology can help second language learners strengthen
their linguistic skills, affect their learning attitude, and build their self-instruction
strategies and self-confidence. According to Robertson et al. observation (1987), the
participants who joined computer-assisted language learning programs also had
significantly higher self-esteem ratings than regular students.
Today, with the high development of computer technology, computers can capture,
analyze, and present data on second language students’ performances during the learning process. As we know, observing and checking students’ learning progress are very
important activities to help students achieve their second language acquisition. When
teachers attempt to assess students’ learning progress, they can get the essential
information from a well-designed computer language learning programs and then offer
feedback tailored to students’ learning needs (Taylor & Gitsaki, 2003). In addition,
Students can get various authentic reading materials either at school or from home by
connecting to the Internet. And, those materials can be accessed 24 hours a day. In a word,
computer technology also provides the interdisciplinary and multicultural learning
opportunities for students to carry out their independent studies.
For learning interaction, Warchauer (2004) indicated that the random access to
Web pages would break the linear flow of instruction. By sending E-mail and joining
newsgroups, second language learners can also communicate with people they never met
before and interact with their own teachers or classmates. Shy or inhibited learners can be
greatly benefited through the individualized technology-learning environment, and
studious learners can also proceed at their own pace to achieve higher levels.
In particular, many concepts and cognitions are abstract and difficult to express
through language the language teaching area. It seems that computers can make up for
this shortage by using the image showing on the screen. Nunan (1999) reported that
“interactive visual media which computers provided seem to have a unique instructional
capability for topics that involve social situations or problem solving, such as
interpersonal solving, foreign language or second language learning” (p.26).
Both cognitive theorists and humanists all pointed out that practice experience is a
very important factor for people’s learning. Experiential theory educators believe that
learning is about making sense of information, extracting meaning and relating
information to everyday life and that learning is about understanding the world through
reinterpreting knowledge (Ormrod, 1999). When computer technology combines with
Internet, it creates a channel for students to obtain a huge amount of human experience
and guide students to enter the “Global Community”. In this way, students not only can
extend their personal view, thought, and experience, but also can learning to live in the
real world. They become the creators not just the receivers of knowledge. And, “as the
way information is presented is not linear, second language learners can still develop
thinking skills and choose what to explore” (Lee, 2000).
Disadvantages of CALL Programs
First, although there are many advantages of computer, the application of current
computer technology still has its limitations and disadvantages. Gips, DiMattia, & Gips
(2004) indicated that the first disadvantage of computer and its attached language
learning programs is that they will increase educational costs and harm the equity of
education. When computers become a basic requirement for student to purchase, low
budget schools and low-income students usually cannot afford a computer. It will cause
unfair educational conditions for those poor schools and students. On the other hand,
expensive hardware and software also becomes the big obligations for schools parents.
Second, it is necessary that both teachers and learners should have basic
technology knowledge before they apply computer technology to assist second language
teaching and learning. No student can utilize computer if he or she lacks training in the
uses of computer technology. Unfortunately, most teachers today do not have sufficient
technological training to guide their students exploring computer and its assisted
language learning programs. Therefore, the benefits of computer technology for those
students who are not familiar with computer are inexistent (Roblyer, 2003).
Third, the software of computer assisted language learning programs is still
imperfect. Current computer technology mainly deals with reading, listening, and writing
skills. Even though some speaking programs have been developed recently, their
functions are still limited. Warschauer (2004) pointed out that a program should ideally
be able to understand a user’s “spoken” input and evaluate it not just for correctness but
also or “appropriateness”. It should be able to diagnose a student’s problems with
pronunciation, syntax, or usage and then intelligently decide among a range of options.
Fourth, computers cannot handle unexpected situations. Second language
learners’ learning situations are various and ever changing. Due to the limitations of
computer’s artificial intelligence, computer technology is unable to deal with learners’
unexpected learning problems and response to learners’ question immediately as teachers
do. The reasons for the computer’ inability to interact effectively can be traced back to a
fundamental difference in the way humans and computers utilize information (Dent,
2001). Blin (1994) also expressed that computer technology with that degree of
intelligence do not exist, and are not expected to exist for quite a long time. In a word,
today’s computer technology and its attached language learning programs are not yet
intelligent enough to be truly interactive. People still need to put effort in developing and
improving computer technology in order to assist second language learners.
In conclusion, the purpose of this article was to discuss the advantages and
disadvantages of CALL programs for applying in current ESL classrooms. With the
modern technology development, although the application of CALL programs has
become a new trend in recently global second language learning instructions, computer
technology still has its limitations and weakness. Therefore, when we try to apply CALL
programs to enhance their teaching or to help student learning, we should realize what the
advantages and disadvantages are in current CALL programs in order to avoid for
misemploying CALL programs and get its maximum benefits for our ESL teaching and
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Formatted by Dr. Mary Alice Kritsonis, National Research and Manuscript Preparation
Editor, NATIONAL FO